RECAP: Age of Ashes, 4-25-20

Last time, we spent a good deal of time ignoring huge swaths of land to go straight to the Vrock camp, but we managed to run away and investigate other hexes. At start, we’d made camp but were awakened by crazed savages, wearing normal clothing but tattered, and had ritualistic stars with a capital A, which we interpret as being associated with House Thrune in Cheliax (eds note: outside of my campaign, Cheliax is run by Asmodeus and the current regent, Queen Abrogail; the A could refer to either).  Renali was missing; her shelter split open and it looked like she’d been dragged away; Damien found the trail and we began heading south.

We were searching for the savages in the dead of night in dense jungle, but we felt we were only about 10 minutes behind – not too much, considering they weren’t covering their tracks, but still very dark out and difficult to follow.  We followed the trail the entire night; even as dawn approached we still had not caught up to them.  By late morning, we had crossed almost the entire hex –it seems unlikely we are going to be able to catch up to them.  However, in the distance we see a wooden watchtower, and in the path is a large lizard on some sort of lead like a guard dog.  Damien charges in, the fight begins; Damien kills the lizard with a double kukri shot.

Approaching the tower, there is a wooden palisade and a “barred” wooden beamed enclosure.  Damien tries to stealth to the watchtower.  Our approach reveals a courtyard with creatures inside, they are groaning, weirdly shambling shapes, with normal sized bodies but shrunken heads.  A party is attacked in  the courtyard; the cannibals look like they are loaded with food.  We attacked them first, doing significant damage quickly.  Several doors lead off the courtyard.  There’s a hole in the ground covered by a grate, with ropes leading into a pit about 20 or 30 feet deep which opens up below and shows some light at the bottom.  Damien calls for Renali but there is no answer.

A door bursts open into the courtyard and cannibals run out and attack.  Then another drawn by the cannibal screeches attacks Inkakahd.  Somehow the zombies get out of the enclosure, they are very rotted and they burst apart at the first strike, soaking the ground and making it slippery and gross.  More cannibals, but the party makes short work of them.
We investigate the area: the tower seems empty, no other assailants but the zombie paddock had been opened, someone had to let them out.  That person has not been seen yet.  Beyond the paddock is a path leading away but no people.  To the northeast are the ruins of a squat stone tower, on which serpentine carvings to decorating the old stones.  Inkakahd and Tasno are reminded of the serpent folk, who ruled well before any of the currents kingdoms – this could be tens of thousands of years old.  Rumors are the serpent folk live now in the Underdark.  This tower could have been built as much as 15,000 years ago.

We decide to enter the stone tower; there isnn’t anyone in the wooden tower. We investigate the sheds first, finding a butchering room that has bodies which have been caught and flensed; Renali  is there, beaten but alive.  The room is set up so that people could watch the butchery through barred windows.  We release Renali, she’s in pretty bad shape. A refuse pit is nearby, with bones and leavings.

Behind Tasno a woman shrieks: “You will never be allowed into heaven!” Then she botches a burning hands spell.  Inkakahd strikes with sound; Ty offers to try and charm her.  She has red hair, like Brianne.  “Take her alive” yells Ty.  A couple guys grapple her, and Damien ties for up and gags her.  Tasno erects a Zone of Truth on her, while Ty uses diplomacy to get her to talk

Did you bring Renali here for reasons other than food?  “Klorek made us to search far there for food and serve our father underground.”

Did you make the zombies?  “Yes!  Weren’t they beautiful?”

Occult check: nothing seems familiar about what she’s saying, but she’s obviously some obsessed cultist.

Do you know the story of the Chelish captain?  “It was my grandmother that showed that ship the path to redemption.”

Who’s in the keep?  “Our leader Klorek.  He has made strange demands of us lately, but he is our leader”

Is he undead or a snake person?  “He’s human of course!  He serves our father underground” she looks toward the grate. “They enter the service of our father.  The best and brightest of food we find, we give to him.”

We kill her.  Tasno casts Detect Magic on her body but finds nothing.  An outbuilding contains piles of victim’s gear and clothing; we find a coyote cloak and a Lion’s Shield, which when raised can attack with a bite.
Inside the stone tower, looking for Klorek, there is light and breeze inside.  We find a chest, which Damien opens and underneath some junk is a hideous wooden mask the mask: a demon mask: +1 bonus to intimidate, one time per day cast fear with DC 26.  Tasno takes it.

In the other room is a shrine, fairly horrible.  We find a wooden carving, which we determine is the figurehead of a ship, carved in the shape of Asmodeus, and probably comes from Chelish Fang.  There’s other nautical gear here, Chelish flag and other trash.

We go up the stairs to door, inside there are four people, three women and a man.  They immediately attack.  Damien kills Klorek, who is (maybe) a doppelganger?  The women drop their weapons and start screaming hysterically and they are soon cut down but don’t change.  There’s a magic long sword here, +1 striking, which Tasno takes.

Past the zombie paddock, the outer gate leads to a path.  At the end of the path is the poorly constructed hot, one room of which a pile of furs and leaves, the other a crude workshop with nautical tools.  We find several magic items there including hat of the magi (Ink), a Remove Curse scroll (Ty), six potions of cure light wounds (spread out amongst the people), and a wand of water breathing (Ink).

We decide to go down the hole to the “realm below.  It’s a damp cave, with a very watery smell – not brine, fresh water, but water is very close.  It’s eerily quiet except for a strong fishy smell.  A small passage leads to a cavern with alcoves, each with a scummy pool.  Talons come out of the pools and a fish-like creature with sharp claws emerges.  We dispatch the creatures quickly.